In my family, we believe in two things.
Russo bloodline comes first because family is more sacred than the religion. While you may think that there is nothing more important than your flesh and blood, well, you are wrong.
An unbroken devotion to a family business comes above anything else in our family. The industry puts food on our table and allows us to have nice things in our lives but most importantly, it raises Russo above everyone else and makes us powerful.
As a child, I didn't take any of these words seriously but my father, Mr Andrea Russo made sure to drill the belief deep into my head before I turned twelve and 'was ready' for a boarding school down to London.
My father understood that I was too small to realise the importance of the power that money may provide. But he also most certainly knew that one day his brainwashed daughter would have to reap what he sowed years ago. Andrea realised that when I was old enough, I'll be able to understand how important it is to have total dominance over every aspect of our lives.
To my father perhaps, but I don't care much for money and power, over the years he turned me into a well mannered and utterly obedient pawn. On the other hand, I wasn't able to complain. I had an expensive education and clothes. I happen to live provided with everything I needed, but I always have known that everything has a price, and I will have to repay for my family's safety and wealth one way or another.
Since day one, I am groom to take over the family business or at least I thought so. As soon as my mom passed away, developing my manner skills became my father's main priority. Dominica Russo was no longer able to object or voice her opinion on how cruel it is to separate the child from a family and her own country.
I was sent to a Catholic boarding school in London when I was 12 years, needless to say; I was mad. Back then, I did not know the language; I have been forced to abandon my family, friends and him. A cheerful neighbour son Leo who grew to be a handsome lad with a perfect jawline and flawlessly created mouth that was just right for kissing. We have kissed a lot. Back when we were teenagers, we would frequently hide in his bedroom during Christmas and summer break when I would come back to Sicily to visit my family.
If our parents had found out, we could have ended up in so much trouble. Mainly, Leo, his parents owned a small Sicilian restaurant, so according to Mr Russo, he could not have been a suitable match for a mafia's daughter.
Leonardo, his twin brother Christiano and I practically grew up together. They lived within walking distance in a cosy two-bedroom cottage. Still, while the family owned a small business, Moretti's parents usually struggled with money, and so one day they ended up on my father's doorstep asking for some job. Which, he has provided, while Mr Moretti would still spend his days running restaurant 'Le Familia' Mrs Moretti was in charge of cooking in our house. Sometimes my father would work late, and while he was not able to attend the dinner, this would create a perfect opportunity for me to sneak into the kitchen and share a dinner with the twins and their mother.
It saddens me to say, but payday finally came knocking on my door. I don't know when and what it will take from me. When money is involved, happiness cannot last forever. So far, it has provided stability and authority, but it also gave us some powerful enemies not only in Palermo where I was born and spent a fair amount of my childhood. Russo family's thirst has become well known across the entire Sicily, which caused a threat to everything that Andrea Russo held dear. I guess it is bound to happen when your father is the head of one of the most powerful mafia families in Sicily.
"Fran, why won't you stop whingeing and just try to have some fun."
"If my father is going to find out I got out..."
"He won't, just maybe don't mention to anyone that you are a Russo." Natalie winks at me, before pulling me into some questionably looking pub.
We were only supposed to go out for dinner to celebrate our graduation. Or at least that is what I thought we would do.
Little did I know that straight after the ceremony, my roommate will make me change into the shortest, tightest and the most revealing dress I own with a matching pair of heels that could quickly kill.
Isn't the usual place anyone could think of finding me in, and that's one of the reasons why I agree to go. It's a small but crowded place with all kinds of people. From the businessman that comes to have a drink after a long week at work, still wearing their suits. To regular customers that probably fell asleep and woke up at the same spot at the bar.
Most of the girls seem to be wearing heels, but nobody looks bothered by the fact that wooden floors wobble when you walk on them. Or establishment that space filled with so much smoke you can't see any further than a stretch of your arm.
However, I won't let technicality affect my night. It's not often I can make my own choices. So this being a rare occasion I can, I plan to use it by the full swing and pretend to be just a regular graduate having a night out with her friend and not Francesca Russo mafia's daughter from Sicily.
"Surprisingly" I'm not a big drinker, I do drink on occasion, but I have only have been consumed like that once before. A few years back, I returned for a summer holiday, and my father was out for a business trip when twins and I sneaked into my family's cellar and stole a few bottles of some expensive wine. Don't remember much from that night, only the aftermath of my infamous Andrea rage, when he found out. I was the one to blame as back then I wanted to be a rebellious 16-year-old and prove some the stupid point. But instead, I was a miserable teenager who was pissed off with her father deciding against spending quality time with his daughter and taking a business trip instead. As it happens, he was not the one who delivered the smacks, one of his hounds found us drunk in the cellar and took the responsibility upon himself to teach us the lesson. I got away with a slap but the twins. Well, the twins were not Russo, so their punishment was way harsher. Nevertheless, Mr Russo and his hounds are back in Italy, so tonight they cannot stop me from having well-deserved fun.
"Good evening, le signore (ladies). Can I buy you a drink." An unfamiliar man's voice is the first thing that sends chills down my spine, a deep sound of smooth like a velvet British accent and perfect Italian.
While my friend's eyes sparkle like they just saw a Gucci bag on sale, my heart starts beating faster for an entirely different reason.
Did he recognise me? Did he know who I was? Did he work for my father or his enemies?
"Can I buy you a drink, gorgeous?" He leans in closer to my ear, making sure that none of the words got lost in a now crowded and noisy pub. He is so close. My heart skips a beat when his hand gently touches my lower back. For most that would seem unmeaningful, but not for Russo, at the end of the day, I'm my father's daughter.
My survival instincts kick in, and I turn my body to break the man's arm but then my eyes meet his. His piercing blues are looking at me like he just won without a battle, and it's not hard to see where that confidence comes. You don't get to see men like this walking in the streets of London every day.
Tall and handsome doesn't justify the guy. His dark like-ink black hair happens to be styled messy. And I am sure that he gets all kinds of smoky looks by the opposite sex for that alone. His hair is nothing compared to his dusky blue eyes clearer then icy London's sky. Jawline sharp enough to cut a diamond, delicately covered in a five o'clock shadow. All 6ft of glory positioned in front of me with his tanned skin and broad shoulders. His muscles are evidential thru his nice navy dress shirt as well as the veins popping out on his arms at the rolled-up sleeves.
"What did you say?" Playing calm, I smile sweetly. He is too handsome to be someone's puppy, but I need to play safe until I know for sure.
"I offered to buy you a drink, Bellissima (gorgeous)" His pearly whites flashes when he checks me out once again and then he suddenly turns to face his friends. "Guarda ragazzi, quel pezzo di carne sarà nel mio letto entro la fine di stanotte ( Watch out boys.That piece of meat will be in my bed by the end of tonight )."
I am disgusted by his cheap observation, but at least I feel relief in my chest. He doesn't know who I am and is an arrogant bastard are asking for tutoring.
Few drinks down, I'm a little tipsy, and Ted is very smooth, but I'm the one in control. He doesn't know that yet.
He made a few nasty remarks in Italian to his friends before we got on the private table, but he is an A-class gentleman to me when he is trying to get in my panties. It's very entertaining to watch him sweat for his goal. I imagine he often succeeds; he is currently really good at this. His flirting is on point and those few Italian phrases then and there I bet make most girls weak in their knees.
Unfortunately for him, I'm not some silly girl. I told him my name was Emily and he doesn't know that I also have a very handsome guy that I love, waiting for my return home.
I made up a whole new life story for myself. Maybe a life I wish I had. Life without a mafia, the one me and Leo were going to build.
I only came home for a show. Attend my father and his new bride's wedding after that. With or without his blessing, Leo and I are going to run away and start a new life where we can be free.
The idea of that makes me smile more than sickly silky words coming from Ted's mouth. The guy blessed with his looks, but his ego is so big it can quickly fill the pub. He is too sure of himself, but he is nothing more than a player.
"What would you say Em? You want to go to my place, so we can continue our conversation where it is quieter, and I don't have to worry about pulling your expensive heels from another gum?" I beat my lashes and smile but shook my head at his offer.
"It's tempting, but I will have to decline. Can't leave my friends, girls code, you know."
"I can assure your friends will return home safely; I need to ask my friends. Bros code is strong too." He winks at me, and if I haven't been trained to notice little details since I was a girl, I may even have missed how he delicately scanned my cleavage while sipping his drink.
"You are cute, but your ambitions are too big. I'm not that kind of girl. Have a nice rest of the evening, Ted." It was so fun to watch his shocked expression when I walked away.
I don't make one night stands; I don't have to. Tonight I will be packing my stuff instead as I'm returning home, to my one and only to his perfect lips and comforting arms.
All I want is to go to sleep now and see him, but when I finally closed my eyes that night, all I could see was that arrogant jerk with his bed hair and those set to kill eyes.
My eyes snapped open, and my heart was beating fast, like in that moment in a pub when Ted touched my back. Maybe the bloody bastard indeed left quite an impression, even better than I first thought. At least my night was entertaining, and it's all thanks to him. After all, nothing puts a victorious smile on my face than placing that player to where he belongs.
It's getting late, and I start to drift off because with the rising sun he will be just a fun memory, nothing more. So I do slip into my satin sheets and dream of the one that my heart remains fixed.
I was excited and nervous all at the same time before my flight the next morning. I ended up not sleeping too well, and now I have to face posh king Andrea Russo, not looking my absolute best. Hopefully, I will have a chance to see Leo first. He will, for sure, set me in a better mood.
Nearly three hours later, I finally landed in Sicily, where my father's driver picked me up. I'm so excited to see Leo, this time we don't have to part for that long.
The whole drive to my father's mansion I daydreamed about my man, standing at the end of the long driveway. With comedic measurement house, that sure is built to be a hotel. It fits 30 bedrooms in it, but there is only my father, his bride to be and a few people that work in a house that lives here! But hey. We can't be any cheaper than DeLuca. Not in the homes, yachts, cars, size of the indoor and outdoor pool, or private island, everything in general. We need to be better than the DeLuca family or in the worst-case scenario as good as them. Funnily enough, the house barely gets filled in once a year during the annual Christmas ball when Andrea Russo invites his friends and associates.
But none of this matters, because I finally recognise a familiar face. Leonardo waited by the door and welcomed me in his embrace as soon as the car stopped. His arms felt just like home.
"Oh I miss you" He whispered in my hair, and my heart made a little joy dance.
"I miss you too, Leo." My hands reached out for his face, and my lips dreamed about a kiss for so long, but before anything could happen, the front door of the house opened, and Leo pretty much pushed me away at least a few steps back.
"Daughter, good to see you back." His stone smile forced the same as it's been for years, but I learned to ignore it a long time ago.
"Father." I bow like he was some King, at least he sees himself as one, he sent me to private school for a reason, so I learn how to treat my variety right. He appeared pleased to receive a proper welcome when he nodded in approval. That's when I looked up to see a briefcase in his hand. "Are you leaving?"
"I am. Have a business meeting with DeLuca." My eye nearly jumped on my head.
"DeLuca? But they like our biggest enemies." I wasn't sure how to express my concern that he should take a gun, not a briefcase in a meeting with De Luca, but I'm just a woman who doesn't understand or need to understand a man's business. That's what my Andrea always says, and I know better than to advise him.
"Presumably the younger DeLuca has some peace offer, and I can't wait to hear it." He announced with sinister laughter.
"Is it safe, father?"
"I will be back for dinner." He nods to Leo, giving him a displeased look, probably from the hug earlier, and walks to his car where the driver waits.